District Furthers Commitment to Equity, Inclusion
Last fall the District began its initial efforts in addressing the racial inequities and biases that exist in the District in the wake of this past summer’s tragic events that spurred a sense of urgency around the country to address systemic racism. In response, the District has formed a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force comprised of staff members across all buildings to examine where and how the District must address deficiencies that create barriers for some students to achieve their full potential.
The District DEI task force has been meeting monthly since October and staff members throughout the District have also been addressing the issue on their own initiative. Much of the DEI committee work is being done in subgroups in order for staff to dig deep in different areas. Subgroups include: special education identification; discipline practices; gifted/advanced classes; leading elementary conversations; engaging students in leadership/clubs and in cultural competence and critical consciousness; engaging families; engaging/training staff; and hiring practices.
The work is already having an impact. Building on the Board of Education’s resolution passed in August urging the Ohio Department of Education to revise current core content standards to be more inclusive, Lakewood High beginning next school year will offer African American and Native American history electives that will allow teachers to more adequately explore contributions of Americans of all cultures and races.
Professional learning sessions focused on anti-racism have been taking place at some buildings as well. At the high school, several sessions have been held with more planned for the remainder of the school year. The entire LHS staff participates in these sessions that focus on honest conversation, exchanging ideas about the structural/institutional barriers facing students, and how LHS can create a more equitable, inclusive environment for its students.
The work at the high school has caught the attention of the State Superintendent’s office and has led to an invitation for Lakewood High representatives to be included in Supt. Paolo DeMaria’s new advisory committee formed to learn about and support Ohio districts’ efforts around equity and inclusion.
On the district level, Lakewood City Schools is participating in an equity audit as part of a project sponsored by the Educational Resource Center of Northeast Ohio. The audit is underway and will examine every aspect of district operations to reveal where improvement is needed in terms of racial equity. Staff members have also formed Communities of Practice to address issues at their building level.
Superintendent Mike Barnes views the District’s DEI efforts as critical to the District’s mission of graduating students who are career and college ready. “We are committed to identifying and removing existing barriers, developing cultural competence and critical consciousness in students and staff, and ensuring equity so that our Vision of a Graduate is achievable for all students.”